noticing his agile mental multitasking skills.
With his ability to think so quickly on
several levels, it's no wonder that he invented
the 8-string guitar: an instrument that
allows him to simultaneously do the work
of two mortal musicians. Charlie could be
changin lanes while driving, planning a
party for his neighbor, pacifying his newborn
and kepping his 3-year-old son from dismantling
every object within his reach - all the
while, dropping thoughtful philosophical
and anecdotal nuggets about his new album
on ropeadope records, Right Now Move.
Perhaps conversely, however, Right
Now Move is the result of some very
focused artistry. After two days spent in
the studio getting the right sound and coaxing
glitchy equipment into proper behavior,
the album was recorded entirely on the last
day of a three-day session. Charlie's band,
in top form from months of touring, simply
ran down the tunes and nailed them. After
a break for dinner, the quintet went back
into the studio and put down the interludes.
As a consequence, Right Now Move
is a special kind of album: one full of
the innovation and vibrancy that can only
be caught on first takes.
For sure, the vitality of Right Now
Move has a lot to do with the five
musicians who play on it. Charlie's tandem
in the rythm section is drummer and fellow
Bay Area native Derek Philips, whose array
of grooves and percussionistic colors ignite
the band. In the unique horn lineup, trombonist
Curtis Fowlkes anchors the section with
sublime musicality. John Ellis, on tenor
saxophone and bass clarinet, plays both
instruments with gritty elegance. Darting
and dancing on top of it all is the chromatic
harmonica playing of Gregoire Maret. Charlie
hand-picked these musicians because of their
individual musical talents and the unique
textures they are able to create against
his own singular 8-string sound.
Right Now Move, his ninth
recorded album, represents a new Milestone
for Charlie. His journey started at the
age of 12, when he bought his first guitar
for $7. By age 16, after countless hours
of practicing and some earliy tutelage under
Berkely resident guitarist Joe Satriani,
Charlie knew music whas what he would do
with his life. While playing both guitar
and bass in various Bay Area bands, Charlie
developed a seven-string hybrid instrument
on which he could play both parts at the
same time. Later, in 1992, he designed a
prototype of his current 8-string guitar.
The fact that charlie plays an instrument
of his own invention is just one manifestation
of his unique musical concept. Charlie's
roots are in jazz music, drawing from modern
jazz harmony and organ players like Jimmy
Smith, Larry Young, and Big John Patton.
However, Charlie voraciously listens to
and studies music from withing the States
and around the globe, including rock, funk,
and soul, as well as the music of Cuba,
Central and South America, and Africa. The
inspiration that CHarlie takes from these
styles is so subtly blended that the result
can only be 100% pure Charlie Hunter. As
Charlie says, "I'm really into coming
up with and playing different kinds of grooves
... I try to distill all the music I love
into something that sounds organic and natural."
THAT A TAMBOURINE?
Just one example of Charlie's expansive
study is his pandeiro playing, featured
on the interludes of this album and in an
amazing segment of his recent live gigs.
"I've been playing it for a couple
of years now. Most people think it's just
a tambourine. But the pandeiro, which is
the national instrument of Brazil, is actually
a little different. It has a tunable head
and drier jingles, among other things. I
got a lot of my chops from checking out
the music of Marcus Suzano, who is an amazing
pandeiro player from Brazil. I just with
I had time to spend learning everything
it can do."
More practice time or not, there's no question
that Charlie has prodigious technical capability.
Apart from his 8-string guitar and pandeiro
playing, he was recently seen at the ropeadope
New Music Seminar grabbing a regular bass
and tearing through "Cissy Strut"
and "Back in Black." Charlie also
has a knack for unusual musical party tricks,
like reciting entire raps from memory and
performing a particular body percussion
maneuver that's like patty-cake gone mad.
"It comes from being a street musician,"
says Charlie. After several years of making
a living playing for people in both the
Bay Area and Europe, he says "The only
way to get by is by being able to do everything.
It has to be a show, like vaudeville."
As far as the human percussion thing, Charlie
deadpans, "Can't everyone do that?"
For all his virtuousity, Charlie doesn't
set out to make music for the purpose of
impressing other musicians. Nor does he
try to manufacture music for the impressionable
masses. "Part of my theory about music
is that too much of today's popular music
has become two-dimensional. The corporate
middleman forces artists into making music
that's 2D - it's flat. It used to be that
A and R people would find pop artists like
Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye, who might be
attractive or beautiful, but they were also
extremely talented and musical. Now, the
corporate structure forces artists into
an artifical mold design for mass consumption.
And the product doesn't end up communicating
very deeply to people. I want my music to
be 3D, reflective of the reality we live
in, something for real people to relate
to who live in a real community. Real people
have to get up and go to work in the morning.
I want my music to speak to them and make
their lives better as a result."
NOW MOVE AND THE PROPHET OMEGA
With his new release, Charlie is telling
real life how to Right Now Move.
"Curtis came up with the name,"
Charlie explains. "He has one of those
tapes that circulates among musicians, you
know, with things like a surreptitious recording
of BUddy RIch berating his band, or Ray
Charles' guitar player freaking out onstage.
Another thing on there was a radio commercial
done by this cult radio preacher from the
south named Prophet Omega. It was a commercial
for a moving company that would do any kind
of move: a move coming up in a couple of
weeks, a move that needed to happen by tomorrow,
and even a 'Right Now Move.'
We liked that particular phrase, which seemed
to be applicable in all kinds of different
contexts, so we named the album after it."
Tata When I was with my band in San
Paolo, Brazil, we went to a music shop
to look for pandeiros and other instruments.
Like all music shops, this one had a bulletin
board with things posted on it. There
was an ad for someone named Mestre Tata
(Mestre means "Master" in Portueguese)
who taught Brazilian percussion instruments.
The crazy hting was, the list of instruments
that he taught was so long, it wouldn't
fit on one piece of paper. So he had a
second page attached with the rest of
the instruments listed on it. We thought,
"We have to check this guy out."
So we asked the owner of the shop and
he told us that Mestre Tata was right
upstairs! So we went up to his studio
and had an hour-long percussion lession
with this 60 year-old percussion master.
This song was inspired by that experience
I whipped this one up just before
the recording session. When I brought
it in, the guys looked it over, we hit
record, and they nailed it. It's a tribute
to the East Bay Area, where I grew up.
We don't play this kind of slow, simple
funk - I call it "dumb-dumb funk"
- very often, because it's so hard to
pull off. But Derrick knows how to play
this stuff the right way, because he's
Changui is a style of Cuban street music
that I'm really into. The melody of this
tune is reminiscent of something you would
play on a stringed instrument from that
idiom called the tres. The rest of the
tune evolved from that into something
When I went out on the road with Fred
Wesley and Mike Clark, they wanted to
play "Doin' it to Death" a lot.
From that came this song, my tribute to
The name says it all. It's a high-octane
Charlie groove, with wing feel on the
cymbal and funk on the bass drum and snare.
Musically it sounds a lot better than
We recorded a bunch of these interludes.
I just played some different grooves on
the pandeiro and the horns came up with
something spontaneous on top of each one.
Those guys killed it. We did a lot of
them too - there are a lot more that didn't
make the record.
in the Water I have all these old
gospel recordings and when I heard this
tune on one of them, I really liked it
and wanted to do my own version of it.
I think it came out pretty good.
Congress This tune started out as
kind of a Robert Walter tribute and then
it morphed into something else.
I originally did this one as a vocal arrangement
on Notes from the Underground. But after
doing it as an instrumental with the three
horns, I realized that this was the way
it was supposed to be played all along.
Fest When I played with Stephen Chopek
and Chris Lovejoy, we used to play a groove
that they called "Freak Fest."
LaAter I made up a tune with that groove,
and here I recorded it with the new band.
This piece started out a tribute to the
music of Mali - specifically, people like
vocalist Oumou Sangare, and musician Neba
Solo. But then, my jazz harmony concept
reared its ugly head and changed this
piece into an entirely different thing.
It's really a vehicle for Greg.
Bateau Ivre The name of this song
comes from the title of a poem by French
Poet Arthur Rimbaud. I liked the sound
of the title (which means "The Drunken
Boat") and I thought this tune sounded
like that: Just a goofy little tune that